Revival of ‘The Ruling Class’ – bitingly funny

Ticket-Ruling-ClassLast week my daughter, half Scottish, and I went to see James McAvoy’s latest West End theatre performance in ‘The Ruling Class’. I read in the programme that Mr McAvoy had appeared in ‘Breathing Corpses’ at the Royal Court in March 2005, but my daughter was still in primary school and so we missed seeing this ‘exciting young talent’ (that’s a quote from the time by the theatre critic of The Independent). However, since then we have been lucky enough to see him star in ‘Three Days of Rain’ (2009) and then terrify us as ‘MacBeth’ (2013). And now, we have enjoyed watching him lead a strong cast through the revival of the 1968 satirical play ‘The Ruling Class’ by Peter Barnes.

Superb ensemble headed by James McAvoy taking their bows at the end of 'The Ruling Class'.  Directed by Jamie Lloyd.
Superb ensemble headed by James McAvoy taking their bows at the end of ‘The Ruling Class’.
Directed by Jamie Lloyd.

The play has not been given a 21st-century updating, but deliberately offers us the looks and, more importantly, the voices of the 1960s, all strangled received pronunciation (aka the Queen’s English or BBC English). Although I’m not old enough to remember the class politics of the late 1960s, I did recognise and understand the overall context and its resonance for a 2015 audience. As a piece essentially poking fun at the British class system I wondered what many of the younger, overseas visitors made of the play. I was sat between my daughter (21) and a lady who I think had seen the original 1968 production. I think the older lady and I enjoyed the whole experience considerably more than my daughter.

Electrifying - Forbes Masson and James McAvoy. 'The Ruling Class' publicity photograph by Johan Persson.
Electrifying – Forbes Masson and James McAvoy.
‘The Ruling Class’ publicity photograph by Johan Persson.

James McAvoy’s performance as Jack, the 14th Earl of Gurney, grabs the audience round the neck and shakes it this way and that as he energetically channels his immense charisma into this larger than life character. The play is funny, the humour dark and vicious, and McAvoy appears to relish playing such an unstable, fluid character. It is no wonder he has been nominated for a Best Actor Olivier Award. Almost equalling McAvoy’s mesmerising performance is another Scot, Forbes Masson, who was both versatile and brilliant in the various parts he played. Indeed, the whole talented cast made for a highly entertaining evening particularly if you enjoy a dose of black humour. The play is on until April 11, 2015 at Trafalgar Studios.

And, finally, if you would like a straight from the horse’s mouth comment on the current controversy about elitism in theatre – have a look at this two minute video filmed at the opening night.

An early bird doesn’t always catch the worm

Queue-outside-DM-shopAs part of a rather clever marketing campaign the folks at Dr Martens had a special few minutes this morning when they opened their stores and sold their classic Monkey boot at its original 1960s price – that was £3 – nowadays £110. Obviously there was a limited stock at this low, low price and obviously there was a long, long queue snaking up to their doors.

My daughter and I launched a two-pronged attack, she went to Schuh at Marble Arch in London and I trekked into to join the queue outside the Dr Martens in Norwich. When I arrived it was already over 100 people long with some determined people queuing since 3.00am, but I thought I’d wait anyway. Even in England where we Brits are famous for queuing you still get the odd queue-jumpers. This pair of lads shuffled up to join their friends and then stood their sheepishly as a wave of muttering rolled over them. As it was no-one this far down the queue got anywhere near the £3 boots, but we were all given 25% off vouchers by a helpful shop assistant at 8.50am.

Despite my failure, all was not lost because my daughter (a true early bird) in London got the boots she wanted at the 1960s price.

At least one early bird caught the worm. Dr Martens Cappers  at the 1960s price of £3. (normally £100+)
At least one early bird caught the worm.
Dr Martens Cappers at the 1960s price of £3. (normally £100+)

Past Times in Hotter Climes

The last time I reread A S Byatt’s fascinating novel ‘Possession’, I chose to read it in November. During the course of the story the Victorian heroine, Christabel, visits her relatives in Brittany arriving in the Autumn.

“NOVEMBER 1 TOUSSAINT
Today the storytelling begins. Everywhere in Brittany the storytelling begins at Toussaint, in the Black Month. It goes on through December, the Very Black Month, as far as the Christmas story.”

So, A S Byatt informs us that the Bretons know November as the ‘Black Month’. Well, so far this November in East Anglia the weather has been very grey, very gloomy and very grim. Even the chilling north-easterly wind cutting across the reed beds of the Norfolk Broads hasn’t shifted the blanket of grey cloud. It’s miserable so I’ve found some old photos taken in the searing heat – the Middle East, Spain in August and a London Studio (??!!!), well it looks hot.

My sister and I as little tots in the shade, Fahaheel Bazaar.
My sister and I as little tots in the shade, Fahaheel Bazaar.

13 years later hot summer evening Altea, Spain.
13 years later hot summer evening Altea, Spain.
Mike Berkovsky's 1967 fantastic photo of Jimi Hendrix looking so hot he looks on fire!
Mike Berkovsky’s 1967 fantastic photo of Jimi Hendrix
looking so hot he looks on fire!




















Ah yes, the ‘Black Month’ nothing to do with this month’s Internet gift shopping, but it is interesting how words have evolved new meanings with international resonance in cyber space.